Did you know that Americans have less vacation days than people in any other country? According to Emma Seppala, author of The Happiness Track, fifty-five percent of Americans did not even use all their vacation days in 2015.
So what’s keeping Americans from using up the few vacation days they do have? Perhaps it’s a cultural thing–many Americans believe in a “dinner before dessert” mindset. They feel obligated to “earn” their vacation days by achieving milestones at work. Or maybe the problem is with employers, who have come to expect their employees to get the job done and be available whenever they’re needed.
In any case, the lack of vacation time in the US has resulted in burnout, marital problems, and even health problems for many. It’s time to see vacation time not as “wasted time” or “laziness”, but as something positive and beneficial.
Why You Need a Vacation
There is plenty of scientific research that suggests that taking a vacation is extremely beneficial. Here’s what studies have shown:
1. Taking a vacation boosts productivity.
Taking a vacation gives you the chance to detach from work. You can focus your mind on something else– essentially a “brain break”. Brain breaks prevent burnout. Think of it this way: if you eat the same food every single day of your life, you’re bound to get sick of it. Each day, you’ll eat slower and slower, because you have less and less desire to eat it. You need to spice your diet up with some variety!
That’s why it’s important to detach from work when you’re at home. Focus your mind on your home, your family, on anything else besides work. Take a weekend and go somewhere! The more vacation days you take, the better.
However, it may seem like a paradox to say that taking time off work will help you do more work. However, taking breaks actually allows us to maintain optimum focus while working. Ernst & Young, a professional services firm, decided to put this theory to the test. They conducted an internal study of their employees, discovering that for each additional 10 hours of vacation time employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent. Better yet, employees who took more time off were less likely to quit.
2. Taking a vacation reduces the risk of silent killers
You may think, “Oh, I don’t need a vacation. My job doesn’t really stress me out.” Or maybe you’ve thought, “I have too much work to do; I can’t take time off.”
Unfortunately, these assumptions can turn out to be devastating to your health. You may not feel stressed, but your body is absorbing stress constantly. Many scientific studies have proven that there is a correlation between stress and cardiovascular health. In short, that means that de-stressing with a vacation can actually keep your heart healthy. In addition, it can actually lower your risk of heart disease, a silent killer that is rarely detected before it is too late.
A Syracuse University study found that, “people who vacation more frequently in the past 12 months have a lowered risk for metabolic syndrome and metabolic symptoms.”
Those symptoms are essentially risk factors for heart disease. The study concluded that “a person can reduce their metabolic symptoms — and therefore their risk of cardiovascular disease — simply by going on vacation.”
3. You need a vacation to inspire creativity
Did you know that a few days on a beautiful Caribbean island can actually boost your creativity? That’s right– studies have shown that a change of scenery can also help you “think outside the box.” And since that’s one of the #1 qualities that CEO’s look for in their employees, taking breaks can help you get a job and keep it.
Unfortunately, mundane work routines can suck creativity right out of us. In fact, research from psychologist Kyung Hee Kim shows that younger generations are getting less and less creative. According to Kim, creativity isn’t just something that some people are born with. It that can be cultivated and shaped by a person’s upbringing and surroundings.
Feeling unmotivated and drained of creativity? Get up, get away from your phone, and get some new experiences! A study from the University of Utah found that “backpackers scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after spending four days in nature disconnected from electronic devices.”
4. Vacation time helps manage stress!
The American Psychological Association recently released a study showing that taking vacations reduces stress. Those who participated in the survey expressed that when they returned to work, their mood was more positive (68 percent), they had more energy (66 percent) and motivation (57 percent), and felt less stressed (57 percent). Another recent study showed that individuals can manage work stress by taking both short and long vacations. From an employer’s perspective, it also demonstrated “the benefits of providing paid vacation days to employees.”
A vacation helps reduce stress by providing relaxation, a change of scenery, and the opportunity to focus on fun, enjoyable things. However, not all vacations are created equal. In order for your down time to truly be restful, you have to eliminate travel-related stress. These stressors come from worrying about transportation, lodging, communicating in the local language, finding your way around an unfamiliar city, and even booking excursions. In addition, some travelers can even feel unsafe in a foreign country.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of ways to handle travel-related stress. The easiest way is to use concierge services. They can handle transportation, inform you about the best attractions in the city, book excursions, and even stock your rental home fridge with groceries. Having those things taken care of for you leaves you free to relax and truly enjoy your time.
The alternative would be to do plenty of research before you go. Use some free time here and there to search for activities you might be interested in. If possible, book them ahead of time so that you won’t have to do that while on your trip. Find out what transportation may be available in the area where you’ll be staying, and book accomodations close to supermarkets and restaurants to make grabbing meals easier.
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